News for

Jun 7 - 13:  e-Communitarian   ☙   Minister   ☙   RE   ☙   Music   ☙   Adult RE   ☙   Practice: Once-a-Month Retreat Days (Worth a try/Occasional)

2019-06-19

Religious Education: Sun Jun 23

Am I at the Mardi Gras? I’m positive I heard a band playing “When the Saints Come Marching In.” There appears to be a parade filing in the hallway with banners and streamers. Maybe this is a celebration for Father’s Day, but of course it’s not. The Religious Education classes from nursery to 12th grade march into the sanctuary, led by the CUUC Multigen Band playing “When the Kids Go Marching In.” What was I thinking? It’s none other than the annual RE Sunday service! What a special moment, when the children and youth marched proudly in with the banners, I might add, made by them. So much was about to unfold that one wouldn’t know where to start. The scholarship award was most meaningful, with our youth and seniors honored in front of the congregation. Aine Hunt, a graduating senior, was presented with a $250 scholarship and validated that award with her reading about her faith as a UU and how much the RE program has meant to her as well as gave to her. Her words were eloquent and moving and served as a testimony of all she has accomplished and the covenant that she lives every day. Passing of the Peace was another exercise in tolerance, understanding, and kindness as the 4–5 and 6–7 grade students distributed name tag ribbons for our Preferred Pronoun Project. The classes also presented a skit about recycling that demonstrated what they had learned through our Social Justice Sunday programs. Surveys that were completed by students expressed what their favorite things were in RE. The answers were simple, truthful, funny, and ran the gamut from snacks, being with friends, not wanting to get up on Sundays, and well, you get the picture. Out of the mouths of babes, as the saying goes. The Bridging Ceremony was particularly impactful and our high school youth were well represented. Each student had the opportunity to express their gratitude and appreciation for being part of the CUUC RE program as they now move forward in life. This farewell was beautifully expressed in the reading of the Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go! The Reflection and Appreciation segment of the service provided both Perry and me with an opportunity to not only say goodbye but, more importantly, to publicly recognize and honor our teachers. Perry in five years and me in only one have been honored and privileged to support a team of exceptional individuals. On that note, I applaud Perry for executing this service without any detail overlooked, as he done so well all these years. His ability to assimilate so many crucial responsibilities – faith formation leader, RE director, youth liaison, pastoral counselor, trainer, and mentor – speaks volumes of his lifelong fervor and sensitivity. Living the life of a Unitarian Universalist in all he does, personally and professionally, is as natural as the air he breathes. Thank you doesn’t seem adequate enough for all you have accomplished. There are also special words of gratitude to the RE chairs, Laura Goodspeed and Christine Haran. They have time and time again extended themselves in this experimental year, if you will, assuring the continuation and ongoing success of the RE program. They are shining examples of those who put their beliefs and dedication above even their personal needs. What a pleasure it has been to work with you.
Well, now I come to the part of my monologue that sadly is my last weekly RE synopsis. Through this writing vehicle I have been given the liberty of recapping all the RE and CUUC events, celebrations, successes, and more. Moreover, I was able to speak to everyone as though I was speaking to each of you individually. Perhaps that is why my weekly discourses have felt so personal and intimate as I shared my feelings and thoughts.
As I mentioned at the service, my tenure here has been a remarkable journey. It would not have been such if not for the support, faith, and confidence you have so generously bequeathed me. For this I am most humbled and grateful. My sincerest thanks to the Board of Trustees, Rev. Garmon, Pam Parker, RE Council, teachers, and entire congregation.
I have always held dear the belief that in leaving any professional position or even contemplating leaving this planet, I would not wish people to remember me by what I said or did, but how I made them feel. You in turn, have done that for me. I am in possession of my very own wonder box and every time I open it, I will feel special. Thank you!

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

Summer Services at CUUC
Summer Services start this Sun Jun 23. Families may attend worship together. Our nursery is staffed for young children. Regular services and religious education classes resume Sun Sep 8.

“Breakfast” Run, Sun Jun 30, 2019, 7:00am, First Unitarian Society, Hastings
Families welcome! Breakfast Runs are the perfect time to introduce kids to the practice of service to others. Join us as we prepare food, pack clothes, and distribute and interact with people who are homeless in NYC. Donations appreciated. Contact: Art Lowenstein (arthur.lowenstein@gmail.com, 914-844-4189).

NYC Pride March, Sun Jun 30, New York City
UUCHV, the UU congregation in Croton, will be leading the contingent of Westchester UUs in the Pride March. They invite us to join them! Meet up is at 31st St between Mad and Park by 12:30pm.

$500 Voucher toward UU Camp
Sophia Fahs RE Summer Camp, Sun Aug 18 - Sat Aug 24, Camp Echo, Burlingham, NY
After 38 years on Shelter Island, the Sophia Fahs Camp has moved to Camp Echo in Burlingham, NY. Thanks to a special grant, a limited number of $500 VOUCHERS are available to NEW CAMPERS. Vouchers are first come/first served. Deadline Jul 1 2019. To request a voucher, email ​sophiafahs@gmail.com or contact the CUUC office.

UU Summer Camps & Retreat Centers for Children, Youth, and Families
Unitarian Universalist retreat centers offer the opportunity to connect with UUs from around the country in fun and fellowship. Whether you are looking for a place to go as a family or somewhere for your kids to experience a fun camp, there are many amazing Unitarian Universalist summer destinations:

2019-06-15

From the Minister, Sat Jun 15

The Buddha comes to town, and a farmer comes to see him and starts complaining about his problems. His wife this, his children that. The ox is sick; the soil is poor; there hasn’t been enough rain and, if there were, the roof would leak. The people to whom he sells his rice are cheating him.

The Buddha stops him and says, "You have 83 problems."

The farmer says, "That sounds about right. How do I fix them?"

Buddha says, "I can't help you. You’ll always have 83 problems. Maybe you solve one, or it goes away on its own, but another pops up to take its place. Always 83 problems."

The farmer says: "Well, what good are you?"

Buddha says, "I can help with the 84th problem."

The farmer says: "What’s the 84th problem?"

Buddha says, "You think you should have no problems."

For the person with good boundaries, problems don’t bother them. Problems arise. One responds to them as well as one can. This is life. Whether you call them problems or challenges, there’s always the next one to meet.

Having good boundaries doesn’t keep out your 83 problems, but it does keep out the 84th problem. With good boundaries, your problems don’t define you; you aren’t consumed with the thought that you shouldn’t be having this problem.

The 84th problem is the extra. Your problems (or challenges) are enough by themselves; you don't need to add anything extra. But we often do add extra problem to our problems. Whenever we're annoyed by the problem, when we think it's wrong that the problem exists, when we let the problem trigger our reactivity and upset our equanimity, we are adding extra problem to our problem. Good boundaries keep out the extra.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Come Back to Basics Keep commitments, don't be outrageous, and be patient and fair. On the spiritual path, over and over again it is a good idea to keep coming back to a few basic principles. By doing so, you can bound your actions with discipline. You can keep your practice on track. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen: Are You Ready? In #87, Raven said, "Things just come in. Do you listen, or do you hear? When you listen, you are paying attention to something out there, but when you hear, the sounds just come in. You are sitting there with your ears open, and the dove calls out. That sound defines you. Once you are defined like that, the cedars can define you, the faraway skunk can define you."

The whole universe continually defines you.

Case
After Raven's response to Mole [see PREVIOUS], the community fell silent.
Finally, Woodpecker spoke up: "A while back you said that the call of the dove defines us, and now you say that when Owl hoots, the whole forest hoots. I'm confused. Do the two sounds have different functions?"
Raven said, "When Owl hoots, the whole forest hoots. Are you ready to be defined?
Verse
"Ready or not, here I come," says Definition,
And I, having not found a satisfactory hiding place,
Dive behind a near and inadequate concealment.

Pretending otherwise, I have long since been found.
Pretending otherwise, I relish re-discovery.
Pretending otherwise, Definition is neither ready
Nor not.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven Index   ☙   Zen Practice at CUUC

2019-06-14

Come Back to Basics

Practice of the Week
Come Back to Basics

Keep Commitments, Don't be Outrageous, Be Patient and Fair

Category: Slogans to Live By: Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these maxims, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.


As soon as we are embroiled in a problem with someone else, our good spiritual intentions tend to dissolve. Nothing is so apt to pull us away from the basics of spiritual awareness as relationship with others. When our lives get powerfully drawn into the lives of others, and those others awaken our desire, our rage, our shame, or our fear, we immediately lose track of what we are doing. There's no distraction like a human relationship.

To turn the distraction of relationship into the discipline, the spiritual practice, of relationship, we come back to basics.

Come back to basics comprises three points.

First: Renew and keep to your commitments. Nothing is more common than the person who does spiritual practice for a long time with great commitment and intensity but completely forgets about it as soon as he or she gets singed by the heat relationship. When you keep in mind that your human life and the lives of others are rare and precious, that you and everyone else has to die someday, that no one escapes suffering, and that all of your words and deeds, and even thoughts and feelings, have big impacts on the world – when that is part of what you are aware of when you are aware of conflict with others, things change somewhat. These reflections may take the edge off your hurt or aggression and reframe for you what you are dealing with. Recall your original intention to take up mind training. Recall the firmness of your decision to do so.

Second: Don't act outrageously. In ancient India and Tibet, this meant things like don't chop down trees where spirits dwell, don't pee in rivers, don't hug lepers. That is, refrain from dangerous, anti-social, or attention-grabbing activities, outrageous things that would draw attention to you. This may seem an odd thing to bring up in this context, but maybe not. Possibly up to now we have been tempted a time or two to be a bit precious or overearnest about our spiritual endeavors. We may have felt a bit holier-than-thou more than once. This is no good in any case, but perhaps not so bad in the privacy of your own mind. But now that we are about to embark on the practice of interacting with others, it becomes really bad to come off as though we were holy and spiritual. As if somehow because of the virtue of our commitments and spiritual efforts, we are conducting ourselves differently from the general run of humanity. Clearly this would be a huge problem for our relationships. Nothing makes people feel criticized and even a little hostile like someone else's pretentious efforts to be good. So, Don't act outrageously. Keep your efforts to practice the discipline of human relationship within the bounds of ordinary human interaction. Don't appear to be different from anyone else. One way or another, we're all in this game together.

Third: Don't be one-sided. This one is very important in human relations, and it runs exactly counter to the usual way we approach things. Usually we are exactly one-sided: there's our side and the other person's side, and it's our side that is important, correct, or right, so much so that we may not even notice that there is another side. But there's always another side. This may be so, but that also may be so. This may be so today, but tomorrow it may not be so. If there's a side, there's always another side. Don't be one-sided has another sense too: Don't favor people you like over people you don't like. Try not to be one-sided in that way. This seems impossible and inadvisable. Are we really supposed to regard an acquaintance or an enemy the same way we regard our close friends, our spouse, and our children? Realistically, no. But that's not the point. The point is to notice how much in almost all of our encounters we are subtly prejudiced by our one-sidedness, constantly upholding ourselves and those we like and running down (in however small a way) those we don't like. These prejudices, which we take for granted and affirm, actually cause us more trouble than we realize. They create a subtle climate of preference, for and against, that gives rise to more of our interpersonal rough spots than we realize. So even though we may not be able to have equal feelings toward all, this slogan puts us on notice that we better take our one-sidedness into account and do what we can to deemphasize it.

* * *


On the spiritual path, over and over again it is a good idea to keep coming back to a few basic principles. By doing so, you can bound your actions with discipline. You can keep your practice on track. The three basic principles to always abide by are: honor your commitments, refrain from outrageous actions, and develop patience.

Honor your commitments. When you make a commitment to train your mind, do not back down but stick with it. Keep the two basic vows of mind training: the refuge vow (to work with yourself and to develop mindfulness and awareness) and the bodhisattva vow (to work with others and to develop wisdom and compassion). When you first take such vows, they are highly inspiring and a bit intimidating, but it is easy to drift away and forget what you have vowed to do. So it is important to refresh those commitments daily.

Refrain from outrageous actions. Be steady and modest. Don't be overly dramatic and don't draw attention to yourself. Recognize the desire to be seen as special, to be noticed as “advanced” or “spiritual” as a stumbling block, and do not give in to its seduction.

Develop patience. Mind training is not something you zoom through and then move on to something else. It is a lifelong occupation. Be patient and without bias as you go about it, both with yourself and with others. Know yourself and do not think more or less of yourself, but be straightforward, steady and realistic.

Practice

In your journal, reflect on these questions: What does it mean to make a commitment? What helps you to maintain the commitments you have made, and what throws you off track?

* * *

Religious Education: Sun Jun 16

The last few weeks have flown by with the flurry of activities, emails, scheduling, rehearsals, etc., always associated with the closing of the RE school year. With RE Sunday still unfolding in preparation and waiting in the wings, last Sunday culminated in the much loved Affirmation Ceremony for our 2nd–3rd grade class. In spite of the frantic pace of assuring everything was in place, notwithstanding a “crunch” rehearsal of their skit only 15 minutes before service, the teaching team and children worked together like a hand in glove and seamlessly rose to the occasion. The skit focused around the story, “The Wise Sailimai,” which focuses on the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism. There was no stage fright to be sure as every one of our 9 students had a line or more to read, with their teachers serving as stage moms and dads. At the completion of the skit, the highlight of the ceremony was the awarding of certificates to each student. One only had to look around to witness the excitement on their faces and the pride and joy exhibited by their parents and families. Rather than repeat my intro about affirmation and the children’s new life journey, you can read it HERE while I take this opportunity to share some thoughts with you. The service and ceremony last Sunday, June 9, certainly spoke to me on many levels. It became crystal clear that all of us gathered together with the teachers and children bore witness to much more than the affirmation of these young children. Providing love, support, and encouragement to them in RE affirmed our belief in their potential and curiosity. The teachers in their incredible unwavering dedication and commitment to our curriculum, along with talent, ingenuity, and enthusiasm, affirmed their place as role models for our young children. We as a congregation or family affirmed success in how our children are raised, we affirmed our hope for their future by gathering to honor them, we affirmed that the children are the product of faith and conviction that goodness and purity of soul transcends any negativity. That Sunday was the affirmation of a undivided community that loves, a community that lives as a role model for our children and youth, and sets that standard or bar so very high for truth and honesty that it reaches the sky. Not so far that it is out of reach, but instead always held firmly in our hearts and hands. I would be remiss in not expressing my great admiration and gratitude to the 2nd–3rd grade teaching team for their very own exceptional performance. On behalf of the children, thank you Norm Handelman, Doreen Rossi, Deb Margoluis, Karen Leahy, Jason Stoff, and Aaron Norris!

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, Jun 16 - RE Sunday Service
Our multigen worship celebration of the year in Religious Education that includes:

• Banner parade for all classes to start the service
• Participation by all ages
• Special music from the children and youth
• Bridging ceremony for graduating senior youth

Grades 4-7 meet in Fellowship Hall at 9:15. All others start in the sanctuary at 9:30 sharp!.

Faith Development Friday, Fri Jun 14, CUUC
Our evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner; 7:00pm Programs; 8:30pm Coffee. Programs include “Faith Like a River” Adult RE and Family Journey Group. All are welcome to stay after the programs to share coffee and a chat. RSVP to CUUCevents@gmail.com by Fri 12:00 noon so we know how much pizza to order. And please stay after to help us clean up - many hands make light work!

RE Party for Michele Rinaldi & Perry Montrose, Sun Jun 16, 11:30am, Fellowship Hall
After our Religious Education Sunday service, join us at a party to thank Perry and Michele for all their hard work on our RE program this year and to bid them a fond farewell. We wish them both all good things in the future!

“Breakfast” Run, Sun Jun 30, 2019, 7:00am, First Unitarian Society, Hastings
Families welcome! Breakfast Runs are the perfect time to introduce kids to the practice of service to others. Join us as we prepare food, pack clothes, and distribute and interact with people who are homeless in NYC. Donations appreciated. Contact: Art Lowenstein (arthur.lowenstein@gmail.com, 914-844-4189).

NYC Pride March, Sun Jun 30, New York City
UUCHV, the UU congregation in Croton, will be leading the contingent of Westchester UUs in the Pride March. They invite us to join them! Meet up is at 31st St between Mad and Park by 12:30pm.

$500 Voucher toward UU Camp
Sophia Fahs RE Summer Camp, Sun Aug 18 - Sat Aug 24, Camp Echo, Burlingham, NY
After 38 years on Shelter Island, the Sophia Fahs Camp has moved to Camp Echo in Burlingham, NY. Thanks to a special grant, a limited number of $500 VOUCHERS are available to NEW CAMPERS. Vouchers are first come/first served. Deadline Jul 1 2019. To request a voucher, email ​sophiafahs@gmail.com or contact the CUUC office.

UU Summer Camps & Retreat Centers for Children, Youth, and Families
Unitarian Universalist retreat centers offer the opportunity to connect with UUs from around the country in fun and fellowship. Whether you are looking for a place to go as a family or somewhere for your kids to experience a fun camp, there are many amazing Unitarian Universalist summer destinations:

Music: Sun Jun 9

Scenes of Childhood through the eyes of the German composer Robert Schumann and the Brazilian Octavio Pinto are featured in Sunday morning's Centering Music. Another Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, furnishes the Offertory music, in the form of his piano suite A prole do bebe (Baby's Family). The collection is meant to depict different sorts of dolls children might play with, each representing a distinct ethnic group as part of the country's diverse cultural heritage. "O Polichinelo" is a portrait of the rambunctious "Punch n' Judy" dolls from the Commedia dell'arte tradition.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano

From Kinderszenen, Op. 15
          Happy Enough
          Important Event
          Knight of the Hobby-horse
                    Robert Schumann

Scenas Infantis
          Run, Run!
          Ring-around-the-Rosy
          March, Little Soldier!
          Sleepy Time
          The Hobby-horse
                    Octavio Pinto

Processional:
"When the Kids Go Marching In"

Special Music: R.E. Students directed by Lyra Harada
"It's a Small World"
          Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, words and music

Offertory:
From A prole do bebe (Baby's Family)
          "O Polichinelo"
                    Heitor Villa-Lobos

2019-06-11

Adult RE, Jun 10-16

Adult RE
at
Community UU

All are welcome. No registration, and you need not have attended previous sessions. Drop-ins welcome!

Thu Jun 13 at 11:30-1:00, Fireplace Area: Science and Spirituality. We'll be discussing Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics -- in particular, the first half of this short book (i.e., pp. 1-38; "Preface" through "Fourth Lesson."
With shared luncheon. Bring something to share if you can easily do so.

* * *

Fri Jun 14, Faith Development Friday. 6:15p: Pizza & Salad Community Dinner
7:00p - 8:30p Programs.
Programs include: Parents Journey Group (facilitated by Alex Sehdeva)
Kids Journey Group
"Faith Like a River" Class (facilitated by Rev. Garmon)

The June "Faith Like a River" class is titled "Global UU." In this session, we'll explore:
  • ways Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists have been influenced and enriched by encounters with cultures and heritages outside North America and Western Europe;
  • past and present Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist faith communities located outside the United States;
  • the dynamics of partnering with Unitarian Universalists across cultures.
See the readings for this session HERE.


2019-06-07

Religious Education: Sun Jun 9

Well, the weather gets better and better and the RE school year is rapidly coming to a close. It goes without saying that the pace of activities and events has multiplied exponentially. Nor am I surprised that this past Sunday RE was running on high octane and yet all was accomplished in fine order! The morning began with a very fun and happy event, which was the breakfast for Special Friends. The excited, anonymous pen pals came to Fellowship Hall resplendent in their colorful pink, blue, purple, and yellow top hats. Some had Mardi Gras eye masks. There was Sunday Sailor, Ninja Princess, Salamander Street, and Cool Kid 77 to list a few pen names. Special Friends resulted in about 18 co-correspondents and all appeared to be engaged in animated conversations, not one face without a big smile! Many, many thanks to Laura Goodspeed who orchestrated this entire friend fest right down to a delicious breakfast of muffins, bagels, juice, and coffee. What a feat well done! Lyra Harada was definitely pumped up as were the students as they continued rehearsing their performance of “It’s a Small World.” The kids were totally relaxed with their percussion instruments and started to really tailor their dance moves, pretending they were marching down the sanctuary aisles. I know Disneyworld has a market on their recording of this song during the ride, but I must confess they have nothing on our singing troupe. As we moved along at breakneck speed last Sunday morning, Laura Goodspeed worked with the 4th–5th and 6th–7th grade students and teachers to create ideas for a skit centered around our Social Justice Sunday programs that were presented over the past few weeks ago. Completion of the skit will be on this Sunday and it will be performed on June 16. I, in turn, had the pleasure of visiting 2nd–3rd grade class to rehearse their skit, which they will perform this Sunday during the Affirmation Ceremony. It did not take a New York minute for the students to voice their choices for roles. One young lady said she wanted to be the narrator, as she is a great actress. Well, I guess she showed me, and to my delight as well as the teachers', there were many rising stars discovered that morning! A second rehearsal is planned right before the service this Sunday, when the class will be honored at their Affirmation Ceremony. So as they say in show biz, “break a leg” or at the very least, simply show us why we are so proud of you! Our two very special Sunday services, on June 9 and 16, are so very exciting, with the Affirmation Ceremony and skit for 2nd–3rd grade class and the barbeque, then our RE Sunday is jam packed with the Bridging Ceremony, procession of classes with banners, special songs, 4th–5th and 6th–7th classes skit, and so much more! What joy and pride is in store for families, teachers, students, and the congregation in witnessing the completion of another RE year. All of the children and youth will receive our affirmation that they are the future ambassadors of Unitarian Universalism, and they exemplify our principles with maturity, kindness, and goodwill far beyond their years.

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, Jun 9
Grades 2-3 start in Fellowship Hall to practice the Affirmation ceremony. Grades 4-7 start in the sanctuary. Grades 8-12 start in class.

Faith Development Friday, Fri Jun 14, CUUC
Our evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner; 7:00pm Programs; 8:30pm Coffee. Programs include “Faith Like a River” Adult RE and Family Journey Group. All are welcome to stay after the programs to share coffee and a chat. RSVP to CUUCevents@gmail.com by Fri 12:00 noon so we know how much pizza to order.

RE Party for Michele Rinaldi & Perry Montrose, Sun Jun 16, 11:30am, Fellowship Hall
After our Religious Education Sunday service, join us at a party to thank Perry and Michele for all their hard work on our RE program this year and to bid them a fond farewell. We wish them both all good things in the future!

$500 Voucher toward UU Camp
Sophia Fahs RE Summer Camp, Sun Aug 18 - Sat Aug 24, Camp Echo, Burlingham, NY
After 38 years on Shelter Island, the Sophia Fahs Camp has moved to Camp Echo in Burlingham, NY. Thanks to a special grant, a limited number of $500 VOUCHERS are available to NEW CAMPERS. Vouchers are first come/first served. Deadline Jul 1 2019. To request a voucher, email ​sophiafahs@gmail.com or contact the CUUC office.

UU Summer Camps & Retreat Centers for Children, Youth, and Families
Unitarian Universalist retreat centers offer the opportunity to connect with UUs from around the country in fun and fellowship. Whether you are looking for a place to go as a family or somewhere for your kids to experience a fun camp, there are many amazing Unitarian Universalist summer destinations:

Once-a-Month Retreat Days

Practice of the Week
Once-a-Month Retreat Days

Category: WORTH A TRY, or OCCASIONAL, or MIGHT BE YOUR THING: These practices are "worth a try" at least once, or, say, for one week. Beyond that, different people will relate in different ways to the practices in this category. Some of these practices you will find great for "every once in a while" -- either because they are responses to a particular need that may arise or because they are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. Among these practices you may find the one particular practice that becomes your main and central spiritual practice -- or a Key Supporting Practice.


When I needed someone to confide in, someone to talk with about my own spiritual growth and struggles, I was referred to Sister Barbara, a Catholic spiritual director. In my initial conversation with Sister Barbara, we explored our faith understandings, seeking to determine where we might overlap, or even whether we overlapped. While she believes in a personal god and the agency of Jesus, she also finds process theology and mysticism central to her faith understanding. I have Buddhist leanings and a mystical humanist sensibility. We found we could work together just fine. I began to meet with her monthly for spiritual direction.

Over the months, we connected best on the practical aspects of the spiritual life: disciplines of journaling, dream work, and meditation. She often suggested just the right small spiritual exercise that helped me go deeper with some experience -- "Why don't you play with sketching that dream?" or "You might try writing a letter to them, one that you will not send."

One day I asked Sister Barbara if I could expand my visit from an hour-long meeting to a full day so I could "make retreat” on the grounds of her spiritual community, She agreed, and since then I have tried to make every visit a retreat day.

Retreat Days

Once a month, I arrive at Villa Maria at 10am, for my retreat day and spiritual direction session. I head to the empty sanctuary for meditation. This 1970s-era building, with its great expanses of fluid, impressionistic stained-glass windows, is often flooded with color and radiance. A bubbling fountain helps set a meditative mood.

After sitting for a half-hour, I find an unused room where I read and write in my journal for the rest of the morning. I review my journal entries from the previous month (however few or many) and reflect on them as I write an entry for that morning. At lunch I find an empty table and eat in silence.

The afternoon might include a walk in the woods or a walk on the labyrinth on the grounds. On cold and rainy days, I might hole up in the small library, exploring some of the Catholic mystics and liberal writers: Thomas Merton, Teilhard de Chardin, Richard Rohr. Or I might sketch at the Art Barn, a converted farm structure.

My hour of spiritual direction with Sister Barbara is the center of the day. We might explore what I've realized about the past month or where I'm sitting spiritually at the moment. After my session, I sometimes write in my journal about my discussion, continue reading or sitting, or merely wander the grounds.

These retreats are sometimes the most satisfying day in the month. I try my best to attend to myself, to turn inward, to discern what is happening with my spirit.

Create Your Own Directed Mini-Retreats

I have become an impassioned supporter of spiritual direction as a tool for people seeking to advance their spiritual growth. We benefit from a pattern of regular sessions with someone who can be fully present with us as we sort out our current place in the world and the direction of our next steps on the path.

In the past, people typically found a spiritual director by asking their religious leaders for contacts. Several online resources now offer help in finding spiritual directors.

Some directors prefer terms such as spiritual guide or spiritual companion, but the older term is most widely used. Some spiritual directors are comfortable working only within a specific tradition or theological framework, while others are willing to work with a more diverse group of directees. An initial phone call or meeting will help you discern if your styles are compatible

Combining a retreat day with regular meetings with a director adds depth to the experience. I am very fortunate to be able to take a whole day each month for retreat. You might have to juggle your daily life commitments with your retreat time and spiritual direction. You might try taking less than a full day for retreat at first or make a retreat on a week end day.

To craft a retreat day of your own, explore what facilities are available. Friends of mine make retreat at art museums, finding their quiet and beauty the ideal frame for contemplation. Libraries, especially university libraries, can be other good spots for retreat, provided you are not overly distracted by the delights on the shelves. Perhaps a coffee shop or dining area can provide quiet refuge for writing and reading. Being outside and walking or sitting in a park, rangeland, even a cemetery can be restorative. Consider what you really, deeply need in your retreat space. Where will you go when you need to cry? Where will you go when you need to dance?

For most people, detachment is a challenging but important part of a retreat. Staying out of contact is a desirable but sometimes unattainable goal.

Being silent is a core part of my detachment. But it can be hard to be completely silent in a retreat space where other people are not maintaining silence. My approach is to be silent except when interacting with people is necessary -- for example, to obtain my food at lunch. At times, I may offer a quiet greeting but not idle chatter.

Retreat and spiritual direction helped me stay grounded as I faced new challenges; they have helped me find the direction of my own spiritual growth.

When I mention my retreat days, people are often curious and perplexed, unable to imagine that such a thing is even possible or desirable. As a longtime meditator, I'm amazed and gratified that meditation and mindfulness practices have recently become popular in schools, workplaces, gyms, and even churches. These trends fill me with hope. I'm optimistic that the formalized solitude of making retreat, and the one-on-one companionship of spiritual direction, may also become ordinary components of the practice of serious spiritual seekers.

* * *

From the Minister, Fri Jun 7

Words of Alasdair MacIntyre haunt me:
What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are not waiting for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St. Benedict.
(Benedict of Nursia [480-547] composed the "Rule of Saint Benedict", a set of rules for monastic life that were so widely adopted throughout the middle ages that Benedict is thought of as the founder of Western Christian monasticism. For MacIntyre, Benedict thus represents the salvaging of "civility and the intellectual and moral life" and "the tradition of the virtues" after the fall of Rome.)

"New dark ages . . . are already upon us," he says. The "barbarians . . . have already been governing us for some time." It's startling to realize that he wrote this 1980.

Actually, though, this sense of decay of order is a leitmotif of the last century. In 1919, W.B. Yeats wrote:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I am not as pessimistic as MacIntyre, nor do I find the dichotomy between barbarism and virtue quite as compelling as he does. The Greek and Roman virtues are valuable, but some newer virtues -- equality, most generally and most significantly -- are also important. Still, the sense of things falling apart has only been growing -- if not continuously for the 100 years since since Yeats wrote, then in the 40 years since MacIntyre's passage. On the right, this manifests as a reactionary urge to return to a largely imaginary period of American greatness. On the left, it is the populist appeal of that reactionary urge that occasions a feeling of civilizational collapse.

Still, I believe MacIntyre is right that, "What matters . . . is the construction of local forms of community." It is that conviction, and the desire to contribute what I could to construction of moral community, that propelled me eventually out from the academy to the congregation.

My money's on the proposition that it is we -- we who gather to share our lives, strengthen our values, and deepen our wisdom -- who are ourselves the new St. Benedict. "Doubtless very different," indeed!

Yours in faith,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Once-a-Month Retreat Days When I mention my retreat days, people are often curious and perplexed, unable to imagine that such a thing is even possible or desirable. As a longtime meditator, I'm amazed and gratified that meditation and mindfulness practices have recently become popular in schools, workplaces, gyms, and even churches. These trends fill me with hope. I'm optimistic that the formalized solitude of making retreat, and the one-on-one companionship of spiritual direction, may also become ordinary components of the practice of serious spiritual seekers. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen: Mutually Dependent Arising Back in #1, when Raven herself was first looking for a teacher, she visited Jackrabbit and asked what happened when Buddha Macaw looked up from the branch of her Jobo tree, saw the morning star, and announced her realization. Jackrabbit replied, "She realized the truth of mutually dependent arising." Raven did not find this helpful, and went visiting other teachers: Prairie Dog, then Moose, before settling down with Brown Bear.

It's not that Raven doesn't recognize that when one thing arises, everything that is thereby arises.

Case
Owl spoke up one evening during the question period and said, "It is clear to me that you don't think much of 'mutually dependent arising' in connection with the morning star case. Is it a questionable notion to begin with?
Raven said, "When you hoot, the whole forest hoots."
"Mole doesn't hoot," said Owl.
"I duck," said Mole.
"There you go!" said Raven.
Verse
"All for each, and each for all."

When a boy I thrilled
To D'Artagnan's exploits with his friends,
inspired by their loyalty,
I quite missed
That the referents of "all" and "each"
Match.

Through all the gates of the senses,
nothing but musketeers.
Nothing but one musketeer.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven Index   ☙   Zen Practice at CUUC

2019-06-04

Music: Sun Jun 9


Images of kids inform the works chosen for this morning’s Centering Music, both by composers from the Catalonian region of Spain. Federico Mompou’s Scènes d’enfants (Scenes of Childhood) begins with “Cris dans la rue” (Shouts in the Street) and ends with “Jeunes filles au jardin” (Young Girls in the Garden); present in the two numbers is a popular Catalan folk tune, “La filla del marxant,” or “The Merchant’s Daughter.” Manuel Blancafort was a close friend of Mompou’s. His father founded a player-piano shop in his home town of La Garriga, and the composer claimed to have learned the rudiments of his craft transcribing musical scores onto player-piano rolls. Parc d’attraccions alludes to a popular amusement park on the summit of Tibidabo, a mountain overlooking Barcelona. Elsewhere, the CUUC Choir makes its final appearance of the 2018-19 church year, and our own Kim Force teams up with niece Isabel and hubby Christian in a fun medley as the morning offertory. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Scènes d’enfants
            Cris dans la rue
            Jeunes filles au jardin
                                                Federico Mompou
Parc d’attraccions
            L’orgue dels cavallets (The Carousel Organ)
            El tumult desvetlla recorts (The Tumult Awakens Memories)
            Polka de l’equilibrista (The Tightrope Walker’s Polka)
                                                Manuel Blancafort


Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Ashokan Farewell     
             Music by Jay Unger, Lyrics by Grian McGregor, arr. by Carole Stephens 

Offertory: Kim Force and Isabel Armstrong, vocals: Christian Force, piano
"Get Happy/Happy Days are Here Again”
                        Harold Arlen and ‪Ted Koehler/ Milton Ager and Jack Yellen 

Anthem:
The Rhythm of Life   
            Cy Coleman & Dorothy Fields, arr. by Richard Barnes  

2019-06-03

Adult RE, Jun 3-16

Adult RE
at
Community UU

All are welcome. No registration, and you need not have attended previous sessions. Drop-ins welcome!

Tue Jun 4 at 3:00-4:15, Fireplace Area: Wise Aging. Facilitated by Revv. Meredith Garmon and LoraKim Joyner.
We're currently looking at Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years: Growing Old Gracefully. For our Jun 4 session we explore the "Ageism" and "Joy" chapters. Among the questions we'll discuss:
  • How have you dealt with negative stereotypes of aging? Do you think you've internalized them to some extent?
  • Are you on a mission to prove the stereotypes wrong?
  • Do you agree with Seneca that "the gradually declining years are among the sweetest in life"?
  • Chittister speaks of "being moved quietly off all the platforms of life." She says we might feel bitter about being displaced, or we might be glad to be free of the "stagecraft that goes with" those platforms. How have you experienced either?
  • Are you, or have you been, "drunk with the very thought of being alive" -- spreading "the joy we have finally been able to find in ourselves"? How has this played out -- or not -- for you?

Tue Jun 11 at 3:00-4:15, Fireplace Area: Wise Aging. Facilitated by Rev. Garmon. This session will explore the "Authority" and "Transformation" chapters of Chittister, The Gift of Years.

Thu Jun 13 at 11:30-1:00, Fireplace Area: Science and Spirituality.

Fri Jun 14, Faith Development Friday. 6:15p: Pizza & Salad Community Dinner
7:00p - 8:30p Programs.
Programs include: Parents Journey Group (facilitated by Alex Sehdeva)
Kids Journey Group
"Faith Like a River" Class (facilitated by Rev. Garmon)

2019-05-31

From the Minister, Fri May 31

The weekend of May 17-19, I was yet again impressed with, and grateful to, this congregation I serve. It was exciting to behold the outpouring of energy and interest in meeting and getting to know Rev. Kimberley Debus, who will be the sabbatical minister while I'm away for six months from Oct 1 to Apr 1. CUUC is truly ready to engage with some new possibilities, and that's wonderful!

Rev. Debus will be bringing CUUC some new ideas and some different skill sets: she was herself a UU music director before going into ministry, so she brings a level of musical expertise that I lack to the collaboration with our music staff, and with her eye for aesthetics she will surely be a help to our members that are already at work on making the look and feel of our worship space more vibrant, enticing, welcoming, and conducive to spiritual experience. She has an Adult RE curriculum of five sessions that she created herself that I believe she will be offering while she's here.

There will be some changes. Perhaps some of them will instantly strike you as good ideas, and maybe you'll be rather dubious about others, but I trust you'll give every experiment a fair chance to win you over. Then when I get back, I'll be keen to know which changes you liked and that we should keep. I've encouraged Rev. Debus to be bold in deviating from "the way we've always done it." Upon my return, I look forward to having some adapting to do to "the new CUUC"!

Yours in faith,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Love We need to give love to be healthy and whole. If you bottle up your love, you bottle up your whole being. Love is like water: it needs to flow; otherwise, it backs up on itself and gets stagnant and smelly. Look at the faces of some people who are very loving: they're beautiful, aren't they? Being loving heals old wounds inside and opens untapped reservoirs of energy and talent. It's also a profound path of awakening, playing a central role in all of the world's major religious traditions. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen: The Goal This is Gray Wolf's fourth appearance. She first appeared in #22 where she asked about karma. We didn't see her again until #59 where she remarked that the enlightenment of bushes and grasses didn't "seem so likely somehow." Then, in #75, she asked how to keep the vow to save the many beings.

Is not the goal of life more life? The goal of inquiry more inquiry? The goal of art more art? The goal of health more health?

When practice is one's whole life, what else could there be to want?

Case
Gray Wolf made one her rare visits to the circle, and after a talk by Raven she remarked, "The goal of practice seems to be just more practice."
Raven bobbed her head. "Well?"
Gray Wolf hesitated, and then asked, "So there's no end to it?"
Raven hopped down from her perch to a little hummock beside Gray Wolf, put her beak to Gray Wolf's ear, and murmured, "Thank goodness."
Verse
No one thought, this will never end.
Still, no one thought, this will end
Often enough not to be surprised
When it did.

Then, behind the shock:
Continuation.
Some this there is
That doesn't end.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven Index   ☙   Zen Practice at CUUC

2019-05-30

Religious Education: Sun Jun 2

There were no RE classes this past Sunday, in light of the fact that it was Memorial Day weekend. Now of course it is common practice, and one celebrated by many as the “unofficial” kick off of the summer, to go to the beach or join families and friends at a barbeque. Lest we forget the teachings of Unitarian Universalism that we provide to our students, let’s take a moment to recognize the true message of Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a living testament and remembrance of all those individuals who participated in war to defend our country and way of life. They fought to protect and defend the well-being of countries assaulted by aggressive governments and, in the process, sacrificed their very lives. War has pervaded our society and humanity since time immemorial: The Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so the list continues to grow. Structures of evil have swallowed up millions of lives in the name of power, control, prejudice, inequity, and greed. All those in our armed services were standard bearers for the very principles that UUs - as well as our society at large - hold dear. Memorial Day honors and immortalizes their actions and their mission to uphold justice, honesty, peace, and the democratic process. These individuals may be gone but never their place as our role models. We as a community may never be placed in such jeopardy of actual demise, however should we do anything less in our daily lives? I think not, as it is not only our right, but responsibility to behave as soldiers ourselves. Our Unitarian Universalist covenant enables us to reach our children, other congregants, and people at large with a message of hope, a desire to live in harmony, and an abiding affirmation of the sanctity of life. In doing this, we pay homage to all those who came before us and offered the ultimate sacrifice. They were and remain the best of humanity, and we thank them with our continuing love.

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, Jun 2
All ages start in classrooms.

College Scholarship Awards - deadline extended
CUUC is offering two scholarships in the amount of $250 for our graduating seniors. Qualifying youth are encouraged to send a short essay on their contributions and leadership at CUUC, with a brief explanation of how the scholarship will be used, and the names of two CUUC references to re@cucwp.org by Mon Jun 3.

Special Friends Meet-Up Breakfast, Sun Jun 2, 9:00am, Fellowship Hall
Our Special Friends pen pals will meet for a reveal breakfast on Sunday, June 2, at 9:00am in Fellowship Hall. We will have disguises for you to help create an air of mystery! Please let us know ASAP if you are not able to attend so that we can let your friend know in advance. Contact Laura Goodspeed (lkgoodspeed@gmail.com).

Faith Development Friday, Fri Jun 14, CUUC
Our evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner; 7:00pm Programs; 8:30pm Coffee. Programs include “Faith Like a River” Adult RE and Family Journey Group. All are welcome to stay after the programs to share coffee and a chat. RSVP to CUUCevents@gmail.com by Fri 12:00 noon so we know how much pizza to order.

RE Party for Michele Rinaldi & Perry Montrose, Sun Jun 16, 11:30am, Fellowship Hall
After our Religious Education Sunday service, join us at a party to thank Perry and Michele for all their hard work on our RE program this year and to bid them a fond farewell. We wish them both all good things in the future!

$500 Voucher toward UU Camp
Sophia Fahs RE Summer Camp, Sun Aug 18 - Sat Aug 24, Camp Echo, Burlingham, NY
After 38 years on Shelter Island, the Sophia Fahs Camp has moved to Camp Echo in Burlingham, NY. Thanks to a special grant, a limited number of $500 VOUCHERS are available to NEW CAMPERS. Vouchers are first come/first served. Deadline Jul 1 2019. To request a voucher, email ​sophiafahs@gmail.com.

UU Summer Camps & Retreat Centers for Children, Youth, and Families
Unitarian Universalist retreat centers offer the opportunity to connect with UUs from around the country in fun and fellowship. Whether you are looking for a place to go as a family or somewhere for your kids to experience a fun camp, there are many amazing Unitarian Universalist summer destinations:

2019-05-28

Music: Sun Jun 2


This morning’s solo piano music consists of fragments, short pieces which function like the broken shards of glass to make a mosaic. In the Centering Music, several of Chopin’s 24 Preludes recall the composer’s sublime collection of brief introductory works, created to sound like improvised prefaces to something bigger. In the Offertory, the first six pieces of Robert Schumann’s Papillons conjure up the short dances and unpredictable procession of guests at a masquerade ball. The composer was inspired by the final chapter in Jean-Paul Richter’s unfinished novel Years of Indiscretion, in which twin brothers Vult and Walt switch costumes at a ball to discover the true feelings of Wina, the woman they both love. For the Romantic-era authors who influenced Schumann, the masquerade ball was a symbol of self-transformation and freedom from societal constraints.

Elsewhere, Kim and Christian Force provide another musical exploration of the monthly theme of Borders and Boundaries in Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory,” and the CUUC Choir serves up Greg Gilpin’s “Rise Above the Walls” and an arrangement of Spirituals by Sonja Poorman.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Twenty-Four Preludes, Op. 28
            No. 1 in C Major
            No. 2 in A Minor
            No. 3 in G Major
            No. 4 in E Minor
            No. 22 in G Minor
            No. 23 in F Major
                                                Frederic Chopin

Special Music: Kim and Christian Force
The Edge of Glory
                                                Lady Gaga

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Georgianna Pappas
Going Home      
             American Folk Song and Spiritual, arr. by Sonja Poorman 

Offertory:
Papillons, Op. 2, Nos. 1-6
                                                Robert Schumann

Anthem:
Rise Above the Walls     
                                                            Greg Gilpin

On the Journey, Jun: Borders/Boundaries

The June issue of "On the Journey" has arrived! HERE

We'll be exploring BORDERS AND BOUNDARIES. Don't miss it, and don't miss your Journey Group meeting to get together to work with this issue!

Here's your preparation:

"Poems," p. 2.
  • Henry Bellamann, "Edges."
  • Bei Dao, "The Boundary."
  • Richard Wright, "Between the World and Me."
  • Tyler Knott Gregson, "From Wildly Into the Dark."
  • Sophie Jewett, "Across the Border."
Do any of these speak to you? Reveal a new perspective?

"Border/Boundary Quotations," p. 3. Which quote is your favorite? Why?

Readings:
  • "The Harder I Look, the Blurrier Things Get"
  • "The Boundary of Identity: The 'Ship of Theseus' Problem"
  • "We Are Stories and Stardust"
  • "The Threshold"
  • "Defying Limits: Lessons from the Edge of the Universe"
  • "Letters to a Young Poet"
  • "Why Boundaries are Overrated -- Even at Work"
  • "Strangers in Their Own Land"
  • "Lines and Boundaries: An Orange County Almanac"
  • "Advent Manifesto: Does My Soul Still Sing"
  • "Why Sex is Not Binary"
  • "The US Border is Bigger than you Think"
  • "No Old Maps Actually Say 'Here Be Dragons' -- But an Ancient Globe Does"
Questions, p. 11.
  1. Do you stay away from boundaries or push them?
  2. Are you afraid of or attracted to crossing boundaries?
  3. Do you have a border between your personal and professional selves?
  4. Does the “Ship of Theseus” conundrum reveal a disturbing challenge to our ideas about the bounds of our identity?
  5. What has it done to our sense national borders to have seen, since the late 1960s, photos of Earth from outer space – where no national borders (except coasts) appear?
  6. What is the importance of respecting boundaries in a marriage? (see Rilke excerpt)
  7. How do we cross “the empathy wall” – and does it matter if we do? (see Hochschild piece)
  8. Are efforts to eradicate an invasive species analogous to a kind of “ethnic” cleansing? (see James Brown piece)
  9. Are boundaries – such as between work life and personal life – overrated, as Courtney Martin argues?
  10. What do you make of the border between grief and grievance? (see Lederach piece)
  11. Anne Fausto-Sterling notes, “By birth a baby has five layers of sex” – chromosomal, gonadal, hormonal, internal reproductive organs, and external genitals. Each of these “layers” is nonbinary – and the sex-direction of one layer may conflict with other layers. How does this awareness change one’s perception of the boundary between male and female?
Our Spiritual Exercise: What are the borders between people – between groups of people – that justice and compassion calls us to cross? This month, can you identify such a border that you have tacitly observed – and then cross that border?

The link to the current and all past issues of On the Journey can always be found at cucmatters.org/p/journey-groups.htm

2019-05-24

Thank Without Ceasing

Practice of the Week
Thank Without Ceasing

Category: SLOGANS TO LIVE BY: Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these maxims, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.


“Pray without ceasing,” instructs the apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians (5:17). The Greek word translated as “without ceasing” (adialeiptos) doesn’t mean nonstop, but constantly recurring.

Two of the central functions of prayer are to articulate to ourselves our heart’s hopes (which can devolve into the merely “asking for things” concept of prayer), and to express gratitude. For this practice, we focus on the gratitude.

Paul's full phrase is "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances" (Thes 5:16-18). For Paul, thanks is given to God. If “God” tends not to be in your vocabulary, then think of being grateful to reality, to the world, to all things that are not in your control, that you cannot earn or deserve. Such gratitude offers a remarkable path to feel closer to reality (or God) during one's daily activities.

When forty spiritual leaders were asked about their favorite method of feeling closer to their Creator, the most common answer was focusing on feeling grateful to God (or reality) throughout the day.

As Ram Dass put it,
“Gratitude opens your heart, and opening your heart is a wonderful and easy way for God to slip in."
Letting reality slip in means becoming more able to set aside the ego-defenses and delusions that separate us from reality.

Many spiritual traditions emphasize prayer that expresses thanks for the blessings in one's life. Many years ago, Jonathan Robinson arranged to interview a Native American medicine man named Bear. They met at a location sacred to Bear's tribe, and Bear suggested that they begin by offering a prayer to the Great Spirit. Robinson's simple prayer was that the time together be well spent, and that it would serve for becoming closer to reality. Then Bear took his turn. He prayed in his native tongue, and he kept praying, as Robinson grew increasingly restless, for fifty minutes.

Trying to hide his irritation, Robinson began the interview by asking Bear, “What did you pray for?” Bear's calm reply was, “In my tribe, we don't pray for anything. We give thanks for all that the Great Spirit has given us. In my prayers, I thanked Spirit for everything I can see around me. I gave thanks to each and every tree I can see from here, each rock, each squirrel, the sun, the clouds, my legs, my arms, each bird that flew by, each breath I took, until I was finally in full alignment with the Great Spirit.” It was clear to Robinson that this man really knew how to pray.

How

Begin by saying, “Thank you reality for [whatever is in your awareness]." You may want to “prime the pump" by thanking reality for things that are easy to feel grateful for. You might say, "Thank you for my health. Thank you for such a beautiful day. Thank you for [name of your partner].”

Then, as gratitude swells in your heart, say "thank you” for whatever you are aware of. If you are driving somewhere you might say, “Thank you for my car, thank you for my iPhone, thank you for this beautiful music, thank you for this nicely paved road, thank you for the man that just cut me off, thank you for the anger that he stirred up in me, thank you for the opportunity to practice forgiveness."

All things are gifts given to us to enjoy or learn from. Normally, we take virtually everything for granted, and rarely stop to appreciate the wonderful things we are given. It can be eye opening to realize that even middle-class folks of today live better than kings lived just a hundred years ago. Yet, without the “thank you” habit, the amenities of modern life go unappreciated.

Once you have used this practice for a while, you will even begin to value things that are unpleasant. Getting cut off by an aggressive driver is no one's idea a good time, yet Thessalonians says, "Give thanks in all circumstances." From a grateful state of mind, you can see that the experience is an opportunity to practice and strengthen your patience, compassion, and forgiveness. Thank you, reality, for that help!

Like any repeated mantra or phrase, "thank you" can build up a momentum of its own as you use it throughout the day. It can, however, become mechanical and rote if attention is not given to appreciating in your heart the gift you've been given.

There is an ecstasy that arises out of gratitude. The “thank you” practice also helps us become more aware and present in the eternal now. By giving thanks for what's right in front of us, worries recede, replaced by an expanded awareness of what is currently occurring.

* * *

From the Minister, Fri May 24

Last weekend I was yet again impressed with, and grateful to, this congregation I serve. It was exciting to behold the outpouring of energy and interest in meeting and getting to know Rev. Kimberley Debus, who will be the sabbatical minister while I'm away for six months from Oct 1 to Apr 1. CUUC is truly ready to engage with some new possibilities, and that's wonderful!

Rev. Debus will be bringing CUUC some new ideas and some different skill sets: she was herself a UU music director before going into ministry, so she brings a level of musical expertise that I lack to the collaboration with our music staff, and with her eye for aesthetics she will surely be a help to our members that are already at work on making the look and feel of our worship space more vibrant, enticing, welcoming, and conducive to spiritual experience. She has an Adult RE curriculum of five sessions that she created herself that I believe she will be offering while she's here.

There will be some changes. Perhaps some of them will instantly strike you as good ideas, and maybe you'll be rather dubious about others, but I trust you'll give every experiment a fair chance to win you over. Then when I get back, I'll be keen to know which changes you liked and that we should keep. I've encouraged Rev. Debus to be bold in deviating from "the way we've always done it." Upon my return, I look forward to having some adapting to do to "the new CUUC"!

Yours in faith,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Thank Without Ceasing Then, as gratitude swelled in my heart, I would say "thank you” for whatever I was aware of. If I was driving somewhere I might say, “Thank you for my car, thank you for my iPhone, thank you for this beautiful music, thank you for this nicely paved road, thank you for the man that just cut me off, thank you for the anger that he stirred up in me, thank you for the opportunity to practice forgiveness." READ MORE


Your Moment of Zen: Realization and Equanimity As for equanimity, Raven demonstrates it.

As for realization and equanimity, which one is beaver and which is dam?

As for teaching, remember what Huangbo (755?-850) said: "I do not say that there is no Zen, but that there is no Zen teacher" (Blue Cliff Record 11, Book of Serenity 53).

Case
In a private meeting Woodpecker asked, "Is realization the same as equanimity?"
Raven said, "Don't confuse the beaver with the dam."
Woodpecker asked, "What's equanimity?"
Raven said, "I'm not a very good teacher."
Woodpecker said, "Oh, come on!"
Raven said, "It's okay."
Verse
Some of them, though, had a gardener.

Daffodils did not have teachers.
They did not study the craft
Of blossoming.
They were not taught to have six petals
And a corona,
Or drilled in color selection;
Took no classes in stem construction,
Received no instruction in photosynthesis.
From blithe stamen to untutored roots,
Throughout its growing, the daffodil was
An incorrigible truant.
No, no daffodil ever had a teacher.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven Index   ☙   Zen Practice at CUUC